>>> Review: You Will Remember Me

YOU WILL REMEMBER ME by Francois Archambault, translated by Bobby Theodore (Studio 180/Tarragon, 30 Bridgman). Runs to April 10. $15-$60..


YOU WILL REMEMBER ME by Francois Archambault, translated by Bobby Theodore (Studio 180/Tarragon, 30 Bridgman). Runs to April 10. $15-$60. 416-531-1827. See listing. Rating: NNNN

The prospect of watching a play about a man slipping into dementia doesnt sound very promising. Will it be overly clinical? A cheesy Lifetime movie?

Francois Archambaults You Will Remember Me avoids those pitfalls, mostly because the man at the centre of the play, Edouard (R.H. Thomson), is so brilliant. A scholar and frequent commentator on Canadian sovereignty, the retired professor can expound on almost anything with great erudition. Trouble is, he cant remember what hes said five minutes later and has to be continually re-introduced to each person hes talking to, with the exception of his wife, Madeleine (Nancy Palk), and their daughter, Isabelle (Kimwun Perehinec).

So now this intellectual juggernaut needs someone to look after him. Madeleine, needing a break, leaves him with Isabelle for the weekend. But the daughters a journalist and has to go on assignment, so she entrusts him to her shaggy, unemployed partner, Patrick (Mark McGrinder). Eventually Edouard forges a bond with Patrick and with the mans angry teenage daughter, Berenice (Michela Cannon).

This isnt a disease-of-the-week play. In fact, very little is made of Edouards prognosis. Instead, Archambault uses the idea of memory loss as a metaphor. Its no surprise Edouard is critical of the click, swipe and forget nature of social media. Theres also a critique of cultural and political amnesia a scene in which Edouard asks Berenice what she knows about Rene Levesque is telling.

But this play isnt didactic or overly serious. Theres a mystery at the heart of the play that I dont want to spoil. Its to Archambaults credit that the gnarled knot of the familys dysfunction never entirely comes loose. Were given hints of Edouards philandering with his female students, and Isabelles constant state of anxiety must come from somewhere. Fortunately, these are never explained away.

Director Joel Greenberg gives the play lots of room to breathe on Denyse Karns airy set that nicely evokes the Quebec countryside, complete with images of trees that also suggest neurons and synapses.

The cast is fine, particularly McGrinder and Cannon, whose characters go through the biggest change often with lots of humour in dealing with Edouard. But this play is, among other things, a showcase for a terrific seasoned actor, and Thomson sells the mans brilliance and arrogance, as well as his niggling regrets, with complete authenticity.

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